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What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia asserts itself when the internal temperature of the body drops below the normal temperature (35 C), which is required for normal functions of body organs and metabolism. This condition normally arises when the body is exposed to extreme cold and is unable to replenish the heat that is being lost.

Symptoms of Hypothermia

When a person starts stumbling, mumbling and fumbling it indicates that there is gradual reduction of body temperature and failing consciousness. Initially the body will start shivering, motor skills might become restricted, blood vessels in the hand and feet will experience a shut down, pupils will dilate, pulse rate would drop and the muscles will become rigid. This condition becomes life-threatening as the consciousness is lost and the heart becomes prone to deadly arrhythmias.

The symptoms as they start showing can be divided into three stages: Stage 1, when mild shivering occurs along with the fall of body temperature by 1-2°C. The blood vessels constrict to lessen the heat loss and breathing becomes quick and shallow. Stage 2, when the body temperature falls further by 2-4°C and shivering becomes violent. Muscles become difficult to use, rending any movement being labored. Person becomes pale and the lips, fingers, ears and toes might turn blue. In stage 3, body temperature drops below 32 °C and shivering stops, while the person starts experiencing difficulty in speaking, thinking and amnesia starts to set in. the metabolic processes stop and the skin turns blue and puffy. Pulse rates and breathing decrease dramatically. Decreased cellular activity might ultimately lead to a clinical death of the person.

Who's Affected By Hypothermia And How?

Anyone can get affected by this condition. Though usually it is the children, babies, old people and severely ill people who tend to become hypothermic easily and succumb to it. Other than these, people who participate in outdoor sports like walking, mountaineering and sailing are at a particular risk of acquiring hypothermia.

Cold and windy weather, unsuitable clothing and equipment, getting wet, fatigue and exhaustion, dehydration, inadequate food intake and lack of knowledge, all are few of the risky situations which make you prone to hyperthermia.

Prevention of Hypothermia

Staying indoors, eating regularly and consuming plenty of carbohydrates especially, keeping active and by avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine (these dilate the blood vessels further, increasing the heat loss) and wearing layers of clothing in order to keep the heat trapped inside are all the ways that you can follow in order to reduce the risk of getting prone to hypothermia.

Treatment of Hypothermia

One basic principle to follow to beat hypothermia is to provide as much body fuel as possible so as to produce more heat. Replacing the wet clothes and putting on additional layers of clothing will generally help reduce the risk. Undergoing some activity will help keep the environment as well as you warm. Fire or a heater or body-to-body contact will be of additional help in combating hypothermia. Giving blankets will definitely reduce the heat loss, but for a person already suffering from hypothermia, these will not be of much help. Bear in mind to warm the core of the body first and foremost, or else, the cold blood might be forced to go to the heart causing the death. Moderate and severe cases of hypothermia need immediate medical attention and hospitalization. In the hospital, heated blankets, incubator, injection of warm fluids in the veins, even washing of the bladder, stomach, chest and abdominal cavities with warm fluids in very severe cases of hyperthermia are all provided in order to warm the person and bring his bodily temperature back. Such patients are usually highly prone to arrhythmias, that is, irregular heart beats and thus, should be carefully handles by minimizing any sort of jostling and other disturbances, till the time that body temperature starts normalizing. At times it is seen, that the patient has made a remarkable recovery after a prolonged cardiac arrest. This is usually because low temperature prevents the cellular damage which occurs due to lack of oxygen and blood flow.

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